ScienceOnline2012 – interview with Kaitlin Vandemark

Every year I ask some of the attendees of the ScienceOnline conferences to tell me (and my readers) more about themselves, their careers, current projects and their views on the use of the Web in science, science education or science communication. So now we continue with the participants of ScienceOnline2012. See all the interviews in this series here.

Today my guest is Kaitlin Vandemark (blog, Twitter)

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your background? Any scientific education?

Hello, my name is Kaitlin Vandemark. I am currently a student at Cleveland State University studying physics and communications. I was originally studying to get a bachelor’s degree in physics, until I started to become more interested in communications and finding a way of expressing my love of science to others. I will graduate in December of 2013 with my bachelors in both Physics and Communications. I am hoping then to find a career that allows me to pursue my passion in both science and communication.

Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?

I am still a bit new to the field of online communications. Like anyone from my generation, I have a Facebook and Twitter, but only recently have I started to expand on my online science communication. For the past 2 and ½ years I have been doing optics research at my university. This research has allowed me to attend many conferences, where I can present my research and passion for science to others.

After attending Science Online 2012, I have started a website with AmoebaMike. The site is called the Sardonic Scientist, and its main focus is to parody science news. We have been trying to jumpstart the website with new articles, and I am very excited to see the website grow.

What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?

School takes up most of my time these days. Between classes, clubs, student government, and research; I am kept pretty busy. I write articles for the website whenever I have free time. As I near graduation my next goals consist of finding a career path. I have been researching companies and graduate schools to decide my next steps. I am currently torn between entering industry after my bachelors or continuing my education with graduate school in physics or communications.

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?

I think Science Communication (especially through the web) is important because of the misuse of science today. Many people rely on the internet to get information, and form ideas about issues that face society today. Unfortunately, many people use science as a tool to gain support for their ideas; whether or not the science they claim is true. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone quote a scientific study of some sort to prove a point that doesn’t even relate to the original studie’s goal. This misuse of science motivates me to communicate science to the world. I do this in the hopes that they will do their research before believing in false claims.

How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?

Currently I do not blog much but social networks have a huge effect on my activities. I use Twitter and Facebook to not only connect with people, but to promote my activities. I am currently involved in the Society of Physics Students at my University as well as Student Government. I use Twitter and Facebook to promote events to students. I also use Twitter and Facebook to promote the Sardonic Scientist, by posting new articles on each site.

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2012 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?

This is a very difficult question for me. ScienceOnline2012 was such a great experience that it was hard to pick one aspect. This was the first conference I have been to of this nature. I have been to dozens of scientific conferences, but they seem to be filled with nothing but talks and seminars. This was the first conference to encourage the attendants to speak to each other and share ideas openly in forum. I would say my favorite aspect of the conference was the fact it was an “unconference”, this opened up my eyes to a new way of communicating in science.

Another great aspect was meeting new and wonderful people. Without this conference I would not have meet AmoebaMike and started our website.

Every session I went to offered new ideas and helpful hints for succeeding in science communication. My two favorite sessions were the “2 Minute Elevator Pitch Session” and “Science Communication the Mel Brooks Way”. Each of these sessions provided me with a different tool to succeed at my career. The Elevator pitch session helped me to prepare for my career, whether it is in the university setting or industry. The Mel Brooks session confirmed my love of humor to spread knowledge. I have always firmly believed that humor is a useful tool to teach, but it was amazing to see so many people in one room who believed the same.

For this upcoming ScienceOnline I would definitely stick with the “unconference” idea. I would be interested in a session for new bloggers who are interested on tips to get started.

Thank you! I hope you’ll come back next January.

Thanks so much.

 

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